Three studies published over the past two months have found significant evidence that children and adolescents with autism have brains that are overly connected compared with the brains of controls1,2,3. The findings complicate the theory that autism is fundamentally characterized by weakly connected brain regions. Connectivity is a measure of how tightly synchronized two or more brain areas are. When two brain areas increase or decrease their activity at approximately the same time, the regions are considered to be strongly synchronized, or hyperconnected. For two decades, some scientists have theorized that altered or impaired brain connectivity underlies autism. Brain imaging studies initially revealed reduced brain connectivity in people with autism4,5,6. "I think it’s a very nice opportunity for the field, but also the general public, to become aware that network connectivity and abnormalities of network connectivity are really more complicated than just underconnectivity,” says Ralph-Axel Müller, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and lead investigator of one of the new studies. “Now we’re getting findings that are much more nuanced.”
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